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Presentation of the inscription of Slovenian beech forests on the UNESCO natural world heritage list

Ljubljana, 19. 7. 2017 - The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning (MOP) presented the importance of the new inscription on the UNESCO Natural World Heritage List for Slovenia. Presentations were given by the Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Mrs Irena Majcen, Mr Andraž Čarni from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), Mrs Marjutka Hafner (UNESCO Office), Mr Živan Veselič (Slovenian Forestry Institute) and Mrs Katarina Zeiler Groznik (MOP).

The inscription is the result both of strong cooperation among key organisations in Slovenia and of the international cooperation of 12 countries.  Besides Slovenia, the transboundary extension included Austria as coordinator of the inscription, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Romania, Spain and Ukraine. The inscription was further supported by Slovakia and Germany, whose primeval beech forests were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2007 and 2011, respectively. On the basis of an expert assessment of the good status of preservation of natural beech forests in Europe, the transboundary extension increased the share of potential areas for world heritage status from 30% to 80%.

The inscription represents a major success for Slovenia and is its second inscription on the World Natural Heritage list, the Škocjan Caves having been inscribed in 1986. Of the total number of 1,073 inscriptions on the World Heritage List, only about 20% (206) are inscriptions of natural heritage and only 12% are located in the region of Europe and North America, where Slovenia statistically belongs according to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The forest reserves of Pragozd Krokar and Snežnik-Ždrocle make Slovenia very important in terms of transnational natural heritage, as the broader area encompassing both reserves was, according to the research made so far, the key refugium of beech trees during the last period of glaciation, which allowed beech forests to spread again across a large part of Europe. One reason for the inclusion of both reserves in the nomination was precisely their location in the area of glacial refugia in the southern part of Slovenia; another was their size, area being one of the key criteria for the nomination. Snežnik-Ždrocle is also an interesting example of beech forests on the tree line.
The inscription on the World Natural Heritage List represents a great honour for Slovenian foresters, who have managed, from generation to generation, to preserve parts of forests in a more-or-less intact condition. Both forest reserves are thus examples of areas of preserved natural processes from the last glaciation period and, together with the entire Slovenian network of forest reserves, an important "classroom" for sustainable forest management. Both reserves are a part of the Natura 2000 network and are important from the aspect of preservation of biodiversity, especially of species narrowly bound to a high share of decaying wood. Both reserves also have the status of natural asset of national importance.

The inscription on the World Natural Heritage List of course also brings new obligations. Slovenia will have to ensure quality further management of both reserves. Furthermore, increased interest on the part of visitors is expected, something which will have to be harmonised with the commitment to prevent interventions with natural processes to the greatest extent possible. The interpretation of both areas will also have to be upgraded, the areas will have to be designated, and new management and supervision plans will have to be elaborated. The World Heritage Committee also set a requirement for the extension of the areas of influence and active joint management at the level of all 12 countries.

At the governmental level, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning successfully worked with the UNESCO Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Slovenia to UNESCO. The assistance of experts from the Slovenian Forest Service, the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation and the Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology at ZRC SAZU was also of key importance in the detailed preparation of the Slovenian part of the proposal for inscription.

The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning is certain that strong cooperation will continue in the implementation of the upgrade of the management of the world natural heritage "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe" and that this will constitute a new example of good practice of the world natural heritage management, similar to that of the Škocjan Caves Regional Park. The Ministry is of the opinion that this inscription will also have a long-term positive influence on the preservation of sustainable beech forests in Europe beyond the 78 areas in 12 countries with official status of world natural heritage.



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Further information on the inscription